Problematic Mathematics: PBL designed for the math classroom

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  • Mathematics is often referred to as boring, dry, tiresome, frustrating, aggravating, and difficult, but why? Why do so many people dislike this subject and have a negative attitude towards it altogether? Well if we examine a traditionally styled math classroom we may find our answer. Students regularly follow this pattern day in and day out; they sit down, take notes, watch the teacher perform routine procedures on the board, try some practice problems in the textbook, get homework, pack up, and move on to their next class. So can we really blame them for describing the subject in such a way? "Every human behavior is motivated" (Lavoie, 2007) and as a result teachers need to find what motivates each child in their classroom to do math. Problem-based learning (PBL) may be the answer to the initial problem (a negative attitude toward the subject) and may help motivate students in mathematics. Thus, problem-based learning is the topic of this mini course, so jump right in and start reading.

Course Objectives:

As a result of this mini-course, you will be able to do the following:

  1. Given a question, you will describe the characteristics of problem-based learning, as it relates to the mathematics classroom, in your own words.
  2. When colleagues use traditional teaching methodologies in the math classroom, you will choose to use problem-based learning strategies.
  3. Given core mathematical concepts to be taught, you will design tasks that are problematic in nature, in written form, to stimulate inquiry.
  4. Given a problematic task, you will identify three ways to assess students on their understanding, in written form.
  5. Given a problematic task, you will describe different ways to provide student's with adequate feedback, in writing.
  6. Given different authentic problems/lesson plans, you will understand and adapt these techniques, putting them to use in your individual classrooms.


Arrow.pngUnit 1: What is problem-based learning & why is it beneficial?

  • When given a prompt participants will be able to describe, identify, and explain important aspects of problem-based learning through a journal entry.
  • When given a question, participants will be able to characterize the benefits of problem-based inquiry through a reflected journal entry.

Arrow.pngUnit 2: Designing Problematic Tasks

  • Given some examples, participants will identify and describe ways to create problematic tasks while acquiring the ability to design authentic tasks in their individual classrooms.

Arrow.pngUnit 3: Assessment & Feedback

  • Participants will identify and describe different methods of appropriate assessment and feedback in writing through discussions/journals.

Arrow.pngExtended Resources (PBL in math)

References and Resources:

Lavoie, R. (2007). The motivation breakthrough. New York, NY: Touchstone.